The Senator who saved Gunsmoke

West and Gordon

…………..  and the one who tamed The Wild, Wild West. On Tuesday evening we were searching for a viewing alternative to Obama’s State of the Union address. Lo, and behold we discovered a great choice on PBS, of all places. Seems that the network has a series on The Pioneers of Television. Tuesday’s  episode dealt with television westerns and was a real treat to watch. Westerns were a viewing staple in my childhood and as it turned out in my wife’s as well.

The show was composed of interviews with many actors who appeared in  the shows, clips from the shows themselves and wonderful historical trivia that delighted me no end. Where to begin? Guess that an explanation of the title would be apropos.

During the 1966-67  season CBS noted that Gunsmoke was showing its age and the program that had been s0  dominant was slipping. After all, 12 seasons should be enough, right? Not necessarily. The outcry was significant and even reached to the U S Senate where Robert Byrd expressed his displeasure. Now, that may or may not have had any impact, but  at the least it allows me to think  just  a little more positively of the late senator. Shucks, he liked Matt Dillon, just as I did.

On the opposite side lies another senator who brought about the demise of what remains as one of favorite tv shows ever,The Wild, Wild West. Who was the offending senator and why did he go after Messrs West and Gordon?  The senator was Rhode island Democrat John Pastore. In his place as head of the Senate subcommittee on telecommunications, he held hearings on the effect of tv violence, particularly on children. The Surgeon General testified at these hearings as well. Shortly after the hearings CBS issued a mandate  to all its shows to tone down the violnce.When The Wild, Wild West did not satisfactorily do so, it was summarily;y cancelled in  early 1969. ( No, I was not scarred by the violence.)

There were a number of other enjoyable things  from the PBS show. I was struck by how many actors  talked about the biggest stars with such fondness. Acotrs such as James Arness( who got his role courtesy of John Wayne) Barbara Stanwyck and James Garner were lauded for their kindness and how they set such  a positive tone behind the scenes.

There were some priceless interviews with actors now deceased  such as Arness and his brother Peter Graves. My #1 was the Robert Conrad interview of course. I learned from him and the shows narrator what a genuine tough guy he was, even suffering a concussion when a stunt when awry. Then there was Ross Martin, his running mate,an erudite man who spoke 5 languages and added such finesse to the show.

The show revived some wonderful memories of my teen years and has created a wish to do some dvd shopping. Think the wife may have liked Bonanza better though.


January 27, 2011 - Posted by | Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. yes, the Wild,Wild West, one of my favorite memories from my childhood!

    Comment by pshope | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. Remember tabletop ice hockey and James West vs Artemus Gordon?

    Comment by tarheeltalker | January 28, 2011 | Reply

  3. I remember watching so many westerns growing up and as an adult. My dad loved watching them all. In his last years we would watch many John Wayne movies as well as others that repeated themselves frequently;we didn’t mind! Here’s to westerns!

    Comment by laura | February 26, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: